[SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM]
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Wait, what?? This is wildly at odds with the anti-transmission messaging I've heard. Where I live (USA), I hear endless appeals to wash hands, not shake hands, and not touch your face, etc. I hear barely a whisper about the grave risks of being indoors in a public, poorly-ventilated space. I mean, that CDC page seems to imply that standing in a poorly-ventilated grocery store, even >6 feet from others, may well be riskier than touching a point-of-sale touchscreen and then immediately touching your face. (Remember, the virus stays in the air 30 minutes. [ETA: oops, I just learned that that article was later retracted without explanation.] Or as another example, the implication seems to be that just breathing inside an empty elevator (which was previously occupied within the previous 30 minutes) is quite possibly an even higher-risk activity than licking the elevator buttons. Really? Really???
(And don't get me started on masks ... Masks & googles are not only not suggested in the USA, they're actively stigmatized, despite makeshift homemade masks being I think at least somewhat effective and not contributing to the ongoing supply shortage, and goggles not being in short supply at all....)
I'm posing this as a question because I don't have enough confidence, without doing more research, to declare that our public health messaging has been so wildly misdirected (at least, the messaging I've received). Does anyone have better evidence? Or what's your take?
(Update: After reading this article and this article, I'm somewhat less concerned about air that was exhaled more than a few seconds ago, and now thinking that the main things to think about are (1) being near someone coughing, (2) being near someone talking, (3) touching surfaces then touching your face, (4) aerosols from a bathroom (apparently a SARS patient with diarrhea was a super-spreader, infecting people up to 200 meters away!). I'm very uncertain about the relative importance of these four things. I'm also not sure what "near" means, see discussion here.)